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How To Talk About Money With Your Aging Parents

Talking to your parents about their finances can be a difficult moment in an adult child’s life. What should be a simple and practical discussion of numbers is often tarnished with emotions and memories. It is important to have these discussions before a tragic event occurs. However, it can be difficult to address the issue. In the episode of rich & REGULAR this week, we address this difficult topic.

There’s no one right way to do this, but below are some tips to make the conversation easier for everyone – you included.

Prepare yourself

Feel your feelings

Depending on your parents’ financial situation and the level of support they need, you can have very emotional conversations. It is important that you take some time to focus on the topic before starting a discussion with your parents. Having this space means you can be a neutral ally rather than a figure of authority that your parents rebel against or that you dislike. Write a letter that you never send; Give yourself space to feel the emotions emerging. Talking to your sibling or partner to make sure you are on the same page can help keep your head balanced.

Talk to a safe third party.

According to careiveraction.org, 65 million people in the US are caring for “a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member”. This situation can be incredibly stressful, and a therapist or other support group can help you process your feelings about the situation. Many of us have complicated feelings about our parents, and it is important to separate your past feelings (as much as possible) from your current role as money manager. Making sure you have your support will make it easier to stay neutral when emotionally troubled issues arise.

This is a marathon.

Remember, this is not a one-time conversation. You and your parents will have many details to clear and it will be a long process. You won’t get everything done in one afternoon, and when you get one task done, five more will likely be added to your to-do list. Be mentally prepared that this is a marathon, not a sprint, so that you can save your energy.

Start a discussion with your parents

Schedule small conversations.

Many adult children do not talk about their parents’ financial situation because they do not believe it is their business. Likewise, many older parents do not want to talk about their finances because they feel like they are giving up control of their lives.

Cameron Huddleston, author of Mom and Dad, We Need To Talk: How To Have Important Conversations With Your Parents About Their Finances, provides conversation starters and advice on what to do if your parents don’t want to talk about their finances.

Support with Medicare and Social Security applications.

If your parents haven’t already applied for Medicare or Social Security, helping with the application process and understanding their options can be a great way to start a more in-depth conversation about finance. Visit Social Security or Medicare websites to help you and your parents find information on when and how to apply, and use them to start a deeper conversation about their desires and the current situation.

Other financial documents

While you are helping them apply for benefits, you can also ensure that your parents’ estate planning documents are in place. If you don’t already have estate planning documents, research the legal requirements in your state. Working with an attorney can often save you a lot of headaches, but several states can prepare documents and have them notarized or attested. Find out what your state requires and help your parents organize their lands accordingly. Remember, power of attorney is a big deal to someone. So make sure you and your siblings understand the implications and responsibilities of this role.

Working together

Practice compassion and empathy.

Dealing with the practicality of retirement can be a stressful, scary time for your parents, especially if their finances don’t leave them much room for traditional retirement. You may feel like you’ve just acquired another angry teen, but remember, your parents have grown up and you are in it together. Your parents may mourn the loss of a retirement dream, feel bitter about their situation, or fear the future. It is not your job to manage their emotions, but if they feel down or angry you can offer them great support by being a neutral party that responds with compassion and empathy.

It is difficult to help a parent with their money. It’s a long, drawn-out process that is emotionally exhausting for both you and them, but with a little forethought and research, you can make the process easier for everyone.

Julien and Kiersten Saunders, money editors for SUCCESS magazine, are the couple behind the award-winning blog and the upcoming book rich & REGULAR. They are producers and hosts on the original Money on the Table series, which combines a passion for food with thoughtful conversations about money

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Julien and Kiersten Saunders, money editors for SUCCESS magazine, are the couple behind the award-winning blog and the upcoming book rich & REGULAR. They are producers and hosts on the original Money on the Table series, which combines a passion for food with thoughtful conversations about money

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